For justice to be done, it must be seen
Sign up to the newsletter
Close X
Each week, 3 new questions (very quick).
If you wish to answer all the questions at once (full survey), this is of course possible.
This week: Tell us about yourself...

Ceasefire takes hold after deadly Israel-Gaza violence

2 min 59Approximate reading time

A ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza took hold Thursday after two days of fighting triggered by an Israeli strike on an Islamic Jihad commander, with 34 Palestinians killed in exchanges of fire.

Both Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad and Israel's military confirmed the ceasefire early Thursday, which was brokered by Egyptian and UN officials, the usual mediators between Gaza and Israel.

Five rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza after the ceasefire came into effect and air defences intercepted two of them, the army said, but this did not appear likely to set off another severe round of fighting.

Normal life resumed quietly in Israeli regions near the Gaza border, while in Gaza, citizens also embraced the return of a relative calm.

"We hope for peace, we don't want war," said Mahmoud Jarda, an inhabitant of the enclave.

The agreement, which entered into force at 5:30 am (0330 GMT), came after the death toll from Israeli air strikes had risen to 34 since Tuesday. Islamic Jihad said several more of its members were among those killed.

Palestinian officials said eight members of the same family were killed in an Israeli strike overnight, including five children.

Israel's military said the man targeted and killed in the strike in Deir al Balah in the central Gaza Strip was an Islamic Jihad rocket unit commander.

"He was an Islamic Jihad commander and he, like many others, had the tactic of hiding ammunition and military infrastructure in their own residence," said Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus.

"Of course we try always to minimise the amount of non-combatants killed or injured."

Relatives, neighbours and an Islamic Jihad spokesman disputed that he belonged to the militia, with some saying he had previously worked as a Palestinian Authority military police officer.

PA employees have not worked in Gaza since the Hamas takeover in 2007 but continued receiving salaries. Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas forced many into retirement last year because of budget issues.

"This is a war crime," said neighbour Adan Abu Abdallah. "You are killing innocent children, sleeping at home."

- 450 rockets -

The escalation began early Tuesday with Israel's targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander, Baha Abu al-Ata, whom it accused of being behind rocket fire and other attacks.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said "the goal of the operation was to carry out a targeted killing of an Islamic Jihad commander in the Gaza Strip. He was killed alongside dozens of terrorists.

"Our enemies got the message: We can reach anyone, even in their bed."

The strike triggered almost immediate retaliatory rocket fire from Islamic Jihad at Israel, setting off air raid sirens and sending Israelis rushing to bomb shelters in the country's south and central regions.

Israel's military said some 450 rockets had been fired at its territory since Tuesday morning and air defences had intercepted dozens of them in fireballs high in the sky.

No Israelis were killed, though one rocket narrowly missed speeding cars on a busy highway. Israeli medics said they had treated some 63 people as of Wednesday night, for mild injuries and "stress symptoms".

Israel responded with air strikes, saying it targeted more Islamic Jihad militant sites and rocket and missile-launching squads.

Unusually, it singled out Islamic Jihad rather than hold Hamas, the Islamist movement that rules Gaza, responsible for the violence.

Israeli analysts said it was a clear signal the army sought to avoid a wider conflict.

Hamas repeatedly said it would not abandon its ally, but its decision not to join the fight helped maintain a fragile truce with Israel that has seen tens of millions of dollars in Qatari aid flow into the impoverished Gaza Strip since last year.

Islamic Jihad initially declined all mediation, but apparently decided by Wednesday night it was ready to negotiate.

- Sensitive politics -

An Egyptian official said the ceasefire reached overnight included an agreement that Palestinian groups in Gaza work to prevent violence by demonstrators during weekly protests near the border fence.

In return, Israel agreed to stop hostilities and commit to a ceasefire during the weekly demonstrations, according to the official.

Israel did not confirm any of those claims.

Netanyahu did not comment publicly on the ceasefire, but had warned a day earlier that Islamic Jihad must stop its rocket attacks or "absorb more and more blows".

He added that Israel did not want a further escalation but, if necessary, was prepared to respond "without mercy".

The flare-up raised fears of a new all-out conflict between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza, who have fought three wars since 2008.

Islamic Jihad is the second-most-powerful militant group in the Gaza Strip after Hamas.

The violence came at a politically sensitive time for Israel, with no new government in place since a September election ended in deadlock.

Support Us
Across the world, access to justice and information is vital for societies to rebuild after periods of serious violence. This is why we are dedicated to offering a free website adhering to strict journalistic methods which is accessible to everyone in the developed and developing world. Justice Info is funded by donations. Each donation helps our journalists bring you independent information. A regular donation is ideal. We are also grateful for one-off donations.
Sign up to the newsletter